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"A hundred tongues, a hundred mouths, one iron voice."
Motto of the Order of the Borrowed Dark
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Knights of the Borrowed Dark is a 2016 middle-grade fantasy novel written by Dave Rudden.

Denizen Hardwick is an orphan. And he has been for eleven of his thirteen years of life—that is, until he's contacted by an aunt he's never heard of before and sees her colleague destroy a reality-defying shadow monster with spoken sunrise.

He's taken to a place called Seraphim Row, a candle-lit mansion of secrets, and learns that creatures called the Tenebrous tear into our world through the shadows. And his aunt is part of an ancient order of Knights who fight to beat them back. Not only that, but Denizen has fire in his own bloodstream, giving him the potential to join their fight... and possibly finally get answers about his parents as well.

The Forever Court takes place six months later, with the Order still dealing with the aftermath of the events of the first book and the implications it carried. And nowhere are the effects felt stronger than in Seraphim Row. But as Denizen is adjusting to his new life of Knighthood, the Order receives an unexpected letter from the Tenebrous. And not only that, but another dangerous power is gathering in preparation for war...

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The final book in the trilogy, The Endless King, came out 2018 and follows Denizen and his friends as they travel to the Order's ancestral home, Daybreak. It isn't long before a shocking arrival comes bearing the even more shocking news that the Tenebrae's leader has fallen—and with Usurpers targeting Daybreak, real war is rising.


Knights of the Borrowed Dark contains examples of

  • Accidental Murder: The Opening Boy didn't mean to hurt Grey during their fight, but ends up impaling him. Later, after cutting him off its arm, the Boy brings Grey back up to Denizen and Mercy, and acts very relieved that he's still alive.
  • An Aesop
    • Bravery is a choice.
    • You may not get noticed or rewarded for doing the right thing, but it's still worth it.
  • Affectionate Nickname
    • Vivian refers to Adebayo Sall as “Ade” and even “dear Ade,” which certainly seems like this.
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    • Simon calls Denizen the shortened “Den.”
  • After-Action Patch-Up: Jack gives one to D'Aubigny after Rathláth.
  • Allegory: For bullying. The Cost also represents scars from self-harm.
  • Almost Kiss: Denizen gets one with Mercy, before they're interrupted by Vivian.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Subverted and Deconstructed. The Tenebrous seem to be this... until Denizen meets Mercy, who is extremely nice. This is explored further; Tenebrous, while alien to the world, are not inherently evil, and are individuals with their own desires and emotions. However, most Knights won't believe that Mercy isn't a monster, and even Denizen seems to think of her as an exception rather than proof that Tenebrous aren't all evil.
  • Ambiguously Evil: An interesting case with Mercy, who's actually more ambiguously trustworthy than ambiguously evil. Despite being the Endless King's daughter, she has been nothing but kind and straightforward with Denizen, and has never done anything evil, but the ending of The Forever Court suggests that she may be up to something, or be more shady that she seems.
  • Animalistic Abomination: Some of the Tenebrous take forms that look vaguely like animals. Pick-Up-the-Pieces, for example, looked like a cat.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Both Grey and Vivian, to each other.
  • Arc Words: The Hardwick family motto—"Yield not to evil, but attack all the more boldly.
    • The words of the Croits. "She loved. She stole. And we knew fire."
  • An Arm and a Leg: Greaves loses half an arm at some point during the third book.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Pathetic, cowardly, short—
  • Ascended Fridge Horror: Thralldom is discussed very openly in The Forever Court. Not only is it made explicitly clear that yes, the Three were literally inside of Grey's mind and killing him with the unbearable pressure of it, but it also provides a nasty bit of in-universe Paranoia Fuelanyone could be a thrall, and there's no way of knowing.
    • It also addresses what has to happen to Knights who lose control to their powers in order to protect the public.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: D'Aubigny and Grey fight Pick-Up-the-Pieces in this manner, and Denizen and Vivian get in this formation when the Croits attack.
  • Bad Dreams: Denizen started having nightmares about clocks due to the events of the first book, and Simon gets these so bad that he doesn't sleep because all he can think of is being at Crosscaper with the Three.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Knights' powers come from the world where the Tenebrous live.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: In chapter 25, Grey has a gun to Denizen's head, and Denizen thinks he's been shot when it goes off—but Grey moved it at the last second and fired toward Crosscaper instead.
  • Ball of Light Transformation: Mercy likes taking a form made of light.
  • Battle-Interrupting Shout: It only stops the Redemptress, but Denizen yells one of these.
  • Big-Bad Ensemble: The Endless King and the Clockwork Three in book one.
    • In book three, there's Dragon, the Emissary, and the Opening Boy.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Denizen kisses Mercy to return the Cants, so yes, a kiss literally saves the multiverse.
  • Big Fancy House: Seraphim Row.
  • Big Word Shout: “STOP” is yelled a lot.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: For Simon. He nearly dies on his birthday.
  • Bittersweet Ending: At the end of the series, the Usurpers are dead and the Cants have been returned to the Tenebrae. Breaches have become nearly unheard of, eliminating the need for an Order that fights Tenebrous; Denizen goes to college and becomes a teacher, Abigail has gone into private security, and Ed does architecture for the Order. However, there were countless casualties during the War of Daybreak. Denizen found out the girl he had a crush on was mostly just using him, and the cost of saving the multiverse is becoming mostly iron, which he barely survives. And Vivian is dead, so he doesn't get a life with her. Still, it's more sweet than bitter.
  • Black Shirt: The Croits, kind of. They're waiting for the Redemptress to awaken and the War That Will Come, but are isolated from the world and are preparing for it.
  • Black Swords Are Better: Denizen's knife is made from a shard of a Malleus's hammer and is thus black.
  • Blessed with Suck: The Cants gifted to Denizen turn out to be this due to how much trouble he has controlling them.
  • Body Horror: Grey's hand—already iron from the Cost, now misshapen and filled with clockwork that seems to be growing out of him. Made even more visceral when he rips a stray strip of his skin loose without even flinching.
  • Body Motifs: Hands.
  • Body of Bodies: Dragon, a stained-glass dragon Tenebrous made out of the iron corpses of Knights.
  • Bonding Over Missing Parents: Downplayed, but it's definitely there between Denizen and Grey.
  • Bookcase Passage: The entrance to Retreat involves one of these. Denizen Lampshades it, of course.
  • Bookends
    • The prologue of the first book is called “Tick,” and chapter 31 is titled “Tock.”
    • The epilogue of book one is Daybreak; the epilogue of book three is Sunrise.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: “There are a lot of people in Dublin. With cameras. And phones that are cameras. And phones that are cameras that can phone people with cameras.”
  • Break the Cutie: The author loves this trope, so everyone gets it to some degree.
    Author's Bio: Dave Rudden enjoys cats, adventure, and being cruel to fictional children.
  • Brick Joke
    • When Simon and Abigail start theorizing on why Denizen is taking so long to try on a shirt, Abigail suggests that he might have knocked himself out with a Higher Cant again.
    • “I should just try to kiss Mercy again and then Vivian would magically materialize.
  • Broken Record: “I need to speak to Edifice Greaves.” Poor Uriel...
  • Broken Tears: The Opening Boy and Grey.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Uriel and Ambrel. They strategize in combat very, very well... and had a meltdown when separated.
  • Bungled Suicide: Implied. While he never makes any active attempts to kill himself, this actually happens twice to Grey—the Three don't kill him for his rebellion like he hoped, and Vivian spares him after they fight.
  • Burning with Anger: Denizen, sometimes. He holds his power, or his eyes start glowing, or he catches on varying degrees of literal fire—he all but exploded during his Dawning.
    • When Grey finds out the Opening Boy is still alive, the air around him catches fire.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Denizen delivers an absolutely epic one to Vivian. After eleven years in an orphanage, and nearly a month of being ignored and left in the dark about his parents, he confronts her about how he's been treated. He threatens to fight her to keep her from just leaving again... and it works. He gets answers. And after learning that she's actually his mother, after learning what happened eleven years ago, after learning her reasoning, he still doesn't back down.
  • Call a Human a "Meatbag": Mocked-By-A-Husband calls humans “little meat.”
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: As usual for the genre, this trope is employed... and it's all over the place. Not only is “Knight” always capitalized, there's also the Cost, The Order, the King note , the Court note , Dawnings, Breaches, Tenebrous, the Book of Rust, Cants and Higher Cants note , and the name of every single Cant revealed so far.
    • Funnily enough, however, this trope is entirely averted when it comes to the Knights' actual power, which isn't even given a real name and is simply referred to as “the power of the Tenebrae” or some variant thereof. It's also surprisingly averted in regards to the Endless King's mercy, up until The Reveal that it's actually a Tenebrous named Mercy.
    • The Croits take this Up to Eleven—almost all of their terminology is capitalized words.
  • Captured Super-Entity: Mercy. Just being in the real world was enough to subdue her long enough for a cage to be built to keep her in.
    • In the third book, the Endless King.
  • Cargo Cult: The Croits... at least until the Redemptress awakens and is no longer inanimate.
  • Changeling Fantasy: Lovingly Deconstructed. Denizen is whisked away from the orphanage he's lived at since he was two to meet a long-lost aunt, discovers he has magic powers, and is introduced to an exciting secret world of adventure and monsters... except all that is definitely not as glamorous as it sounds.
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: Whenever Denizen asks about his parents around Vivian, or Vivian around the other Knights, they'll try to do this.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Hey, remember the Malleus's hammer in the Emissary's chest? Yeah, Vivian goes to get that after Grey steals hers.
    • Simon's birthday also qualifies.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Emissary.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Mercy learning to take on a human form, and change it at will.
  • Childhood Friends: Simon and Denizen have known each other since they were both three years old, and their friendship is a main motivator for both of them.
  • The Chosen One: Deconstructed with the Croits. They believe they are chosen, Favored by the Redemptress, and it twisted them into haughty, self-important monsters who believe they are destined to own the world.
  • Coming-Out Story: In the third book, Simon tries to come out to Denizen.
  • Conspicuous Gloves: The Knights each wear a pair of black leather gloves to hide the iron from the Cost.
    • Grey is the only Knight at Daybreak to wear gloves.
  • Conveniently Interrupted Document: Page 136 of the Book of Rust has been torn out.
  • Cool Car: The Jensen Interceptor.
  • Creature-Hunter Organization: Deconstructed. The Knights' work is total warfare, and extremely taxing, physically and mentally. It's a massive responsibility, for them to risk their lives, fight, and die for a whole world of people who will hopefully never even know about what they do.
  • Creepy Crows: Malebranche is made of this trope. Quite literally.
    • Also, the Croit's emblem, the Crow and the Claw.
  • Cruel Mercy: The Three letting Jack live.
  • Crushing Handshake: The man in the waistcoat gives one to Ackerby in the prologue.
  • Cue the Sun: The ending of the first book.
  • Cult: The Family. They all live on an isolated island and worship a giant woman made of wire, who they believe is their sleeping savior. Word of God is that they are based on accounts of people who'd left cults.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Vivian beats Grey in a matter of seconds.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: “If he so much as catches a cold, the Malleus will melt you both down and use you as scrap.”
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: The Higher Cants, which take a large Cost and are very difficult to control, to the point where they can be deadly to the user.
  • Dark Fantasy: It is definitely horror-fantasy.
  • Death Glare: Vivian Hardwick has a very distinctive one.
  • Death Wail: When she's told that Vivian is dead, Abigail starts screaming... except her jaw is clenched so no one else could hear it.
  • Description Porn: Hoo boy. The writing is absolutely lovely, rife with imagery and making use of other beautiful figurative language, so many things are described like this.
  • Determinator
    • Vivian. She's been a Knight for nearly two decades and has risen to the position of Malleus, which in and of itself implies this, but she also gets shot in the back at nearly point-blank range, survives it, gets up, and prepares to go back into battle only a few hours later.
    • Grey never stops fighting. He also gets impaled, turns his stomach to iron, and take the Opening Boy off Os Reges Point into the Tenebraic ocean with him. And he survives all that.
  • Did You Just Romance Cthulhu?: Did you just romance the Endless King's daughter?
  • Disappears into Light: Mercy does this a lot... because she is made of light.
  • Dissonant Laughter: He only does it once, but Grey laughs going into the fight with the Bad-Dream Angel.
  • Dramatic Irony: Denizen and Simon's plotlines. Denizen is motivated by knowing that, even though he's in some very dangerous and unpleasant situations, Simon is safe; Simon, conversely, is able to keep going because Denizen is out there somewhere, away from Crosscaper, and Simon needs to be able to warn him when he gets back. In reality, neither of them are safe.
  • Dramatic Pause: Greaves hesitates while speaking, and Denizen wonders whether it was an actual hesitation or intentionally one of these.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Frequent at Crosscaper, and is Lampshaded by Simon.
  • Drop the Hammer: The Mallei.
  • Dull Surprise: Uriel was expecting Greaves's reaction to the story—and the disproving thereof—of the Redemptress to be a bit more... dramatic. Or just to be anything other than a flat “OK.”
  • Dumb Struck: After Ambrel is snatched away in the Tenebrae, Uriel goes through a version of this. He can still speak, but it's only one sentence.
  • Dying Alone: A Knight's ultimate fate.
    Grey: We die alone, or we die in twos or threes, but we always, always, die in shadow.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Tenebrous don't obey the laws of our world and look and feel wrong and alien.
  • End of the World as We Know It: If the Endless King Breaches.
  • Epic Fail: A very drugged-up Denizen attempts to use the Art of Apertura. It goes about as well as one would expect.
  • Escalating Punchline: It felt like vomiting wasps. Sharpened wasps. Holding toothpicks.
  • Every Scar Has a Story: Vivian shares some of hers near the beginning.
  • Evil Chancellor: Discussed when Denizen contemplates diplomacy. Later, after learning about Malebranche being a traitor, he wonders whether he counts as a Grand Vizier or not.
  • Evil Is Petty: The Clockwork Three destroy meaninglessly.
  • Evil Twin: Inverted (well, depending on which side you're looking at it from) and Played With. Ambrel could be seen as Uriel's evil twin, or Uriel could be seen as Ambrel's good twin. They start out on the same side, but as the story progresses, Uriel begins having doubts and eventually preforms a Heel–Face Turn, while Ambrel becomes more and more fanatic.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Discussed and Subverted. When Malebranche asks about Denizen, Greaves guesses that he thought he'd be taller. Malebranche replies that he thinks all humans look the same.
  • Extra-Dimensional Shortcut: The Art of Apertura Cant is somewhere between this and Shadow Walking, as it allows Knights to use shadows to enter the Tenebrae and travel through it to anywhere they've already been in the real world.
  • Extreme Mêlée Revenge: Uriel does this to the Redemptress for ruining his Family... as Denizen was trying to make peace with Her.
  • Eye Scream: Denizen's pupil explodes into iron. Yikes.
  • Faction Motto: The Order of the Borrowed Dark has one—"Linguae Centum, Sunt Oraque Centum, Ferrea Vox."
  • Family Eye Resemblance: Denizen has the same hard grey eyes as Vivian.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The consequences of messing up a Higher Cant. You could burn your mind out, or blow up, or create another Breach.
  • Fictional Country: Adumbral.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: When the Neophytes fight together—Abigail is the Fighter, Denizen is the Mage, and Simon is the Thief.
  • Fights Like a Normal: All the Knights, as a way of minimizing the Cost.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Abigail and Matt.
  • Flaming Sword: Uriel's Prayer allows him to summon a sword that is literally made of fire.
  • Foreshadowing
    • Tons in the prologue of book one.
      • The off-ness of the strangers foreshadows them being Tenebrous. They avoid the lights, their eyes look wrong, and when asked about their names, they say that they're “new”.
      • The strangers asking about Denizen: Has he turned thirteen? Has another relative come to take him away to a new life? And the odd phenomena they mention are all related to the Tenebrae and the Knights' powers: fires, disappearances, injuries, spacial or luminal distortion, shadows moving strangely...
      • What they say at the end of the chapter, about confusion and symmetry, and just wanting a little more misery in the world hints at their motivations.
      • Ackerby hears ticking. Actually, their interrogation of Ackerby gives a slice into a variant of the process they used on Grey.
    The Man in the Waistcoat: Given time, we can be... persuasive. Imaginatively and painfully so.
    • Simon suggests that Denizen's aunt might have been waiting for him to be older, and that she might travel a lot and have a giant house. Turns out he's more right than he thinks.
    • Before Denizen gets to Seraphim Row, basically everything Grey does is this to something about Knighthood:
    • Vivian asking if Director Carsing still runs Crosscaper.
      • She also hesitates while saying “I owe it to your parents”, probably because she was going to say “father” instead.
    • Simon is the only person still awake in Crosscaper for no explainable reason... except he's a Knight.
    • Grey has never been much good at self-control.
    • “Something has the Tenebrae stirred up.”
    • D'Aubigny promising that she'll bring Denizen home.
    • All of what Simon overhears the man in the waistcoat say in chapter 16 turns out to be significant:
      • The Clockwork Three have a real person with them; they've wormed into his head and can force him to do things. They also call him “Knight,” and that explosion sure looks like a Cant. It turns out this person is Grey.
      • Them having tasted fire and the “tools often break in the hand” line both reference the events of eleven years ago, when every attempt of theirs to create a thrall ended in a casualty and Vivian hurt them worse than anyone had before.
    • Grey taking a while to get back from Rathlath and going expressionless at the mention of the Woman in White. Actually, Grey's deterioration as a whole.
    • Denizen's first experience with the Art of Apertura, and Grey having warned him about needing to look out for sharks in the Tenebrae.
    • “I like exploring, peering up at all the different worlds.”
    • Before she gives Denizen the Cants, Mercy says, “Wait long enough and the sun always rises. Do you believe that?” It seems random at the time, but hints at the fact that the Knights' power was the Tenebrae's sun.
      • Actually, all the sun imagery in reference to the Knights' powers. Special mention to Denizen's Dawn being described as like “a hole had been torn between here and the heart of the sun.”
    • Uriel remained stone-faced while Ambrel prepared a sneak attack on Grandfather from behind. It didn't work on him, but they got Denizen this way.
    • When Denizen asks who stole the fire from the Endless King, Mercy doesn't answer—she changes the subject and starts talking about the rarity of human and Tenebrous working together, and how it's ended in pain and death every other time.
    • “You didn't speak to prisoners. They might infect you with dangerous ideas.”
    • A ton for who the third Usurper is: Abigail and Matt coming across frozen Tenebrous; Denizen hearing what sounds like the Boy's sobbing; Grey's confusion and inconsistency surrounding his Aperture taking them to Crosscaper; the graffiti; Denizen wondering whether the Three were really dead; the frost on Os Reges Point.
  • Freak Out!: Grey has one when remembers what the Clockwork Three did to him; he ends up trying to shoot Vivian and Denizen.
  • Friendship Moment: Simon and Denizen get a sweet one at the end of chapter 20 of The Forever Court.
  • Gallows Humor: Denizen is very prone to this—he makes jokes about how many near-death experiences he's had, and uses a bit of it to stay calm in chapter 25. Abigail and Grey also do this a couple times.
  • Genre Savvy: Denizen grew up reading fantasy books, and is able to lampshade a lot of tropes. Simon, too, to a lesser extent.
  • Geometric Magic: Justified. Mercy's cage is a poorly-drawn circle on the ground. Thoroughly Discussed and Exploited by Denizen, who realizes instantly that it's probably very dangerous.
  • Give Him a Normal Life: What Vivian wanted for Denizen.
  • The Glasses Come Off: Darcie takes off her tinted glasses when explaining to Denizen her job as a Lux Precognitae.
  • Glowing Eyes: Knights' eyes glow when they call on their powers.
  • Good Is Not Nice: She may be protecting the world from shadow monsters, but Vivian still acts very rude to Denizen, refusing to speak to him and criticizing almost everything he does.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Tenebrous are driven insane from the weight of being able to see the entire multiverse above them at all times. Denizen himself almost dies from seeing it.
  • Greying Morality: The series presented itself at first as a traditional good vs. evil story. This quickly became muddy at best in book one, and the conflict became even greyer in book two. The Tenebrous aren't monsters—they're complex, individual creatures capable of feeling love and grief and everything in between.
  • Hair Flip: Grey's character tic. Played for Drama when it's used to nail home just what the Three have done to him.
  • Half-Identical Twins: Uriel and Ambrel Croit, Justified due to their whole family looking creepily similar.
  • Headbutting Heroes: Vivian and Greaves really don't like each other.
  • Heart Trauma: The Endless King's heart was carved out.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Averted. All Mallei wield hammers.
  • The Hero's Birthday: The story technically begins on the day before Denizen's birthday, which is twenty-tree minutes past midnight on October 3rd. Not that he knew this, of course.
  • Heroic Sacrifice
    • D'Aubigny and Jack fighting the Clockwork Three so Darcie and Abigail could get away. Jack survives but is left severely wounded, and D'Aubigny dies.
    • Vivian fights Dragon so the Neophytes can get away. She ends up killing it, but at the cost of her own life.
  • Heroic Willpower: Invoked into a Double Subversion. It's implied that Grey tried to fight the Three's control, but either failed or became worn out. However, Denizen attempts to convince him to fight it again... and it works.
  • Hero with a Unique Name: Most everyone else has a real name (Vivian, Simon, Abigail, etc.) and then there's Denizen.
    • Somewhat Subverted in book two with the introduction of Edifice Greaves, who isn't The Hero, but whose name is also a noun not usually given as a name.
    • Turns out it's Justified; Vivian wanted to give Denizen a normal name, but his father didn't because he was never going to be normal.
  • Hopeless War: The Knights are engaged in one with the Tenebrous.
  • Hope Is Scary: Denizen brings this up when wondering whether Uriel was able to reason with Ambrel and get back to Trinity.
    No. Denizen had dabbled in hope before. Every orphan in Crosscaper had. Maybe someone will come along and tell me it's all been a mistake, that I don't belong here—that there's a family and a home and love waiting for me outside these miserable walls.
    Hope was paralysing. It encouraged you to put your determination aside and rely on somebody else's, when that energy would be much better spent being your own best chance for happiness, your own best plan for survival.
    But someone did show up at Crosscaper.
    Shut up.
    I wish he was here now.
  • Hope Spot: Simon is given one in chapter 16 when Mr. Gilligan returns from his vacation.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Jack and D'Aubigny. She only comes up to his chest.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Clockwork Three, Mercy, and some other older Tenebrous.
  • Ignored Expert: Darcie gets very concerned about the Breach in Rathláth, but no one pays attention to her worry.
  • Incoming Ham: Edifice Greaves loves showy entrances.
  • Innate Night Vision: The Intueor Lucidum.
  • Insistent Terminology: Every Knight has their own, much to Denizen's confusion: Vivian hates the word "magic," D'Aubigny insists that their fight against the Tenebrous is pest control and not "war," and Grey says Tenebrous aren't monsters.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: Mercy bragging about how human she can be... followed immediately by her umbra taking out every light and even the fridge in a store.
  • Instant Sedation: The Croits drugged Denizen and it knocked him out almost immediately.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Denizen and Grey.
  • Internal Reveal: That the Clockwork Three are at Crosscaper. Denizen finds out in chapter 23, but the audience has known for almost the entire book.
  • Invisibility Flicker: Simon inverts this, flickering into invisibility (or at least translucency) several times.
  • In Medias Res: The Endless King starts off with a prologue from Director Ackerby's perspective involving what seems like a Breach at Crosscaper and Denizen asking for help. The first chapter takes place “some time earlier.” Around the middle of the book, we get the context of that scene from Denizen's perspective.
  • Ironic Echo: “I guess I'm just a blunt instrument.”
  • I Call It "Vera": Denizen calls his knife “Falter” to invoke this trope.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Played With. The Clockwork Three want Vivian to kill Grey because they think it'd be fun. Once Grey makes it perfectly clear that he has to fight her, she doesn't even try to talk him back and ends up neutralizing—but not killing—him.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: “I am very calm,” hissed Mercy. After giving an implied war threat.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Oh yeah. The book has two major plot threads that don't converge until very late in the story, with each picking up many more questions along the way. No one explains much to Denizen about anything, and nothing he uncovers about his parents gives him answers either, only deepening the mystery further. Simon, meanwhile, has no sources of information at all, and the reader has only a minimally better idea of what's going on than he does. None of this is helped by the fact that the Knights know virtually nothing about the Tenebrous, and a lot of their prior notions and ideas were called into question or straight-up debunked by later events and reveals, and new puzzle pieces were brought up right up until the end of the book. And though the major Driving Questions have been answered and some other mysteries explained by the end of the first book, so there's still a lot left open.
  • Just Between You and Me: Discussed. Grey mocks this trope when talking to Denizen about how the Tenebrous aren't monsters. Kind of ironic, given that he actually exploits a variation of it later.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Poor Grey. He tries to Mercy Kill Vivian and Denizen in order to prevent the Three from subjecting them to the kind of torture he was put through, and give them a quick death. But while he was dealing with the Hardwicks, he knew the Three were at Seraphim Row, and he was under the impression that they had killed everyone until Vivian told him much later that only D'Aubigny was dead.
  • Knight Errant: The Knights Peregrine.
  • Lamprey Mouth: Dragon is described as having one.
  • Language of Magic: Kind of. The Cants are in a magic language, but it isn't exactly language; it's elemental, like speaking with the senses of nature.
  • Last-Name Basis: D'Aubigny, Jack, and Greaves.
  • Late for School: Played With. Denizen wakes up late on the first day of classes at Daybreak and freaks out, but is stopped in the halls by Greaves, who doesn't even want him to go to class anyway.
  • Letter Motif: Grey and Greaves, probably because they're foils.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Good luck keeping track of all the Croits.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Denizen feels like the other Knights are hiding something from him throughout most of the book, both about Knighthood in general and about his parents.
    • In book two, Denizen truly is Locked Out of the Loop about why Greaves is apparently untrustworthy, and about all of Vivian's plans to protect him.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: An entire chapter is devoted to this.
  • Long List: Denizen rattles one off when Mercy asks what he's nervous about. It ends with “so many things.”
  • Loop Hole Abuse: The Clockwork Three aren't very specific in their orders for Grey, so he uses this to fight their control.
  • Love-Obstructing Parents: Vivian isn't too accepting of Denizen having a crush on a Tenebrous...
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Vivian is Denizen's mother.
  • Luminescent Blush: Shockingly and hilariously Justified. Due to the fire in their blood, every single Knight can get this quite literally—and usually does, to a small extent, as a default.
  • Magic Knight: The Knights of the Borrowed Dark, obviously. They have powers that can be used to defeat the Tenebrous, but also train extensively at hand-to-hand combat so they don't have to use their powers unless it's absolutely necessary.
  • Magical Society: The Order of the Borrowed Dark.
  • Malevolent Mutilation: Uriel is threatened with this when Ambrel comes after him with the intent to shave off parts of his hands with a file.
  • Manchurian Agent: Grey, the Clockwork Three's thrall.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Simon, Abigail, Darcie, and Vivian all have this reaction when Uriel mentions Denizen having taught him the Art of Apertura... in front of Greaves.
    • When Simon, Abigail, Ed, and Matt realize that lighting Daybreak was a challenge beacon.
  • Master Swordsman: D'Aubigny and Grey.
  • Meaningful Name: Everything. To the point where there's a lexicon of them in the back of the third book.
    • Tenebrae means “darkness” in Latin, and it's also the name of a candle-extinguishing festival.
    • Seraphim are a type of angel associated with fire.
    • Malleus means hammer.
    • Hardwick means something along the lines of “herd and outlying farm,” or “brave in battle.” Denizen's claim that it translates to “safety through caution” might reference the armorial motto of the Duke of Devonshire.
    • A denizen is an inhabitant of a certain place.
    • Vivian means alive; she's Denizen's mother, who he previously thought was dead.
    • Simon means “listening” or “he has heard” and Hayes means “descendant of Aodh,” who is a fire god.
    • Graham means “grey home” and McCarron means “little dark one.” His nickname Grey references his PTSD and how he's stuck between light and dark.
    • A fuller is a blacksmithing tool, as well as a groove on the side of a blade.
    • Corinne means “beautiful maiden” and her last name references Julie d'Aubigny.
    • Darcie means “of the darkness” and wright is a name for a craftsman.
    • A falx is a type of sickle, and Abigail means “my father is joy.”
    • The surname Croit. It means “to place one's heart,” or “to believe,” but has several other possible significant meanings. It's related to croft—an enclosed area of land—which contrasts with the meaning of Hardwick, and can mean “raw” or “fresh blood.”
  • Meaningful Echo: These are all over the place.
    • “Well, you know what they say about plans.”
    • "I told you not to overthink stuff."
    • “If not me, who else?”
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: An interesting case with Grey. While he doesn't actually die, he is put through a lot of shit, and breaks in a way that spurs on Denizen's character development similarly to what this trope invokes. The trope is, however, played straight with D'Aubigny.
  • Merciful Minion: Inverted and then played straight. Grey's orders were just to keep the Hardwicks at Crosscaper until the Three returned, but he decides to kill them instead... believing it to be a mercy. He ends up letting Denizen leave, which goes against his own plans and his orders.
  • Mercy Kill: Invoked, Subverted, and just generally Played With. This is what Grey thinks he's doing to Vivian and Denizen. He shoots Vivian, but she survives, and Denizen manages to get away.
  • Metallic Motifs: Lots. Iron, gold, bronze...
  • Mind Rape: Thralldom is absolutely horrible. The Clockwork Three literally got inside of Grey's head, forced him to do things for them, and played with his memories.
  • Mood Whiplash
    • Denizen running from the Woman in White in Rathláth is a scary, tense scene... and then he hilariously falls on top of a four-year old girl. It whips back quickly, though.
    • “Mr. Gilligan looked up, their eyes meeting for one long moment, and then his car exploded.
    • The end of chapter 24 is made of this.
  • My Blood Runs Hot: Due to their powers, emotionally-flooded Knights can literally raise the temperature of a room they're in.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast
    • The Endless King
    • Dragon
  • Never Found the Body: Eleven years ago, the Clockwork Three wiped out Vivian's cadre one by one... but they were taken alive, so no one was able to record even how they died. Denizen figures out the reason for this later.
    • This trope is why Uriel and Mercy believe Ambrel could still be alive.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: All the Knights' terminology for the Tenebrous is of their own invention.
  • Noble Fugitive: Mercy in The Endless King, due to her father being overthrown and her being Dragon's challenge.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The Tenebrae, the world where the Tenebrous live, is an dark, endless expanse of... nothingness.
  • Not Quite Dead
    • Vivian comes back after being shot and laying in a pool of her own blood for who-knows-how-long.
    • Grey survives his Taking You with Me moment, barely, by turning his stomach to iron, and Denizen manages to save him with the Bellows Subventum.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Man in the Waistcoat has one when he learns that Denizen has freed Mercy.
  • One-Hit Kill: Grey delivers one to the Bad-Dream Angel using Sunrise.
  • One-Liner: Denizen drops one after using Sunrise on the Woman in White. He then Lampshades it and mocks himself for it.
    Denizen: I'm sorry, did you not hear me the first time?
  • Only Friend: At the beginning of the book, Simon is this to Denizen.
  • The Order
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Lampshaded. Denizen has pretty severe trust issues as a result of this, and is desperate to know anything about his parents. Grey hasn't said much about his past other than that he is an orphan, but given the negative reaction he displays whenever he brings it up, this trope is strongly implied. Simon actually seems to be the best off when it comes to this, but it still affects him.
  • Parents Walk In at the Worst Time: Played With hilariously. Denizen and Mercy truly were about to kiss when Vivian found them... but she thought Mercy had made Denizen a thrall. So Denizen had to awkwardly explain to her that, yes, he really was trying to kiss a Tenebrous.
  • Patricide: Mercy kills the Endless King in order to replace him.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Eleven years ago, Vivian's entire cadre was wiped out by the Clockwork Three; when she learns that they've returned, rather than stay with her current cadre and at least warn them of the possible danger, she leaves. If she had communicated with them, maybe D'Aubigny could have lived, and at least something could have been done about Grey.
    • So much of the second book involves the main characters purposefully withholding information from Greaves. And Vivian being vague with Denizen.
  • Power at a Price: The Cost, which turns Knights' skin to iron the more the use their powers.
  • Power Degeneration: See Power at a Price above.
  • Power Glows: Justified, as the Knights are fighting darkness, and their powers manifest as fire.
  • Power Incontinence: Zig Zagged. It is possible to control them, with extensive training, but even then it's hard; the power is triggered by strong emotions and needs to be tamped down. Most characters, especially the experienced Knights, are able to prevent any accidents from happening... but can still be seen holding their power when angry, and it leaks if used when they're emotionally unstable.
  • Prevent the War: The reason it's so important to find and return the Endless King's mercy. The Knights are already at war with the Tenebrous, but if the Endless King Breaches, it'll become public.
  • Primal Fear: The dark.
  • Prophetic Name: Simon Hayes. See Meaningful Name.
  • Puberty Superpower: Connections to the Tenebrae Dawn when you turn thirteen.
  • Publicly Discussing the Secret: Grey and Denizen do this twice, and though the first time was late at night in an empty cafe, the second was in a crowded park and, much to Denizen's dismay, Grey decided to use a Cant.
  • Pūnct'uatìon Sh'akër: Tenebrous names employ this sometimes, such as with Pick-Up-the-Pieces, Mocked-By-A-Husband and the title Tenebrous use for the Endless King, That-Which-Is-Endless.
  • Punny Name: Downplayed, but still... The conflicted character with questionable motives and ambiguous actions is nicknamed Grey? Gee, I wonder why.
  • Put on a Bus: Grey was taken away by the Order after book one, and was absent for the entirety of The Forever Court.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Interestingly, Denizen manages to reach this several times over the course of the book, probably because he never gets the answers he's looking for until the last one.
  • Reality Ensues: Mercy gave Denizen knowledge of all seventy-eight Cants, which he can now use at will and with minimal Cost. Cool, right?! Well... actually, no, it sucks. The Cants are still Wild Magic, and Denizen has an extremely difficult time controlling them. There's a reason most Knights only specialize in a select few of them; they want to be used, and it's painful.
  • Real Men Get Shot: Vivian has been shot twice now. The first time was nearly point-blank to the back, and incapacitated her for a significant amount of time before she managed to heal herself; the second time was to the shoulder, bounced off the iron of the Cost, and did literally nothing.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Denizen and Simon, respectively. Denizen is skeptical, driven, and short-tempered, while Simon is more calm, controlled, and relaxed. This is further represented by their Dawnings. Denizen's power manifested as raw and angry fire; Simon's was bending light, a difficult ability that requires a lot of patience and discipline.
  • Religion Is Magic: The Croits believe they get the Favour from their Redemptress. This isn't actually true.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Due to the copious amounts of Foreshadowing and the nature of its Jigsaw Puzzle Plot, a reread (or several) can be very rewarding. To list a few examples: all of Simon's chapters—16 in particular—carry heavy reread bonuses, as does the prologue, and many scenes involving Vivian or Grey take on a different light after the Reveals involving them.
    • You can really see what Greaves is doing to see if Denizen's a thrall on the second time through.
  • Running Gag: Denizen's near-death experiences. Specifically, how many he's had, and whether or not he's used to them yet.
  • Run or Die: Simon. He's trapped alone in Crosscaper with the Clockwork Three, and he has no powers, so all he can hope to do is avoid them—sneak, hide, run, and simply try to survive until... something happens.
  • Sanity Slippage: Grey has one nearing the end of the book.
  • Scenery Porn: Due to the Description Porn. Special mention to the description of Os Reges Point.
    Five great spears of slick black stone rose out of the sea. At their base, the ocean dashed itself to spume and spray, trying and failing to bring them down. They marched like soldiers of ever-increasing height, the fifth and final one a massive pinnacle that must have been more than half a kilometer tall, its staggering bulk bullying the horizon aside.
    Beyond them, the ocean went on forever, rising in iron-grey swells, then falling to lines of foam. The air was crisp and clear, the night sky filled with stars, but clouds had massed on the horizon in a vast continent of grey and white and black. Lightning stung its depths.
    Denizen's jaw dropped. It actually dropped. He had always thought that phrase was a cliché. It wasn't. He'd just never been to Os Reges Point before.
  • Secret War: The one between the Knights and the Tenebrous that's been going on for centuries.
  • Sequel Hook: What the hell does the ending of the second book mean?
  • Shapeshifter Mode Lock: Downplayed. Taking some Cost from Denizen leaves Mercy permanently partially iron, but she can still change shape, it's just harder.
  • She Is the King: Once Mercy takes over for her father, she keeps the title “The Endless King” because Tenebrous don't have gender binaries so it doesn't matter.
  • Shout-Out
    • Vivian has fought a Tenebrous named Rawhead Rex.
    • Grey is named after Graham Tugwell, Dave Rudden's friend and writing buddy, and his phoenix tattoo is for Sarah Maria Griffin.
    • D'Aubigny's tatoos are based off Rudden's friend Eilish.
    • The Hardwick's and the Order's mottos are both taken from book 6 of The Aeneid.
    • “There was a phrase Denizen had heard in an old TV show the orphanage director had liked—Don't mention the war.”
    • Malebranche.
  • Sliding Scale of Unavoidable vs. Unforgivable: Comes up in regards to Grey shooting Vivian. Denizen seems to place it more on the unforgivable end, but the action is ambiguous enough that cases could be made for both sides. People seem to have forgiven him, though.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: When asked about her thoughts on Greaves, Abigail responds with her extremely elaborate food order off the menu at the Goshawk. Then she answers the actual question.
  • Starfish Language: The Tenebrous don't speak using them, but the Cants are technically this.
  • Stealth Pun: “Allow me to caw in more civilized tones.”
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Greaves came to watch the Neophytes train without anyone noticing him arriving, which was disconcerting compared to how his entrances usually go.
  • Stepford Smiler
  • Strong Family Resemblance: The Croits all look extremely similar, to an almost creepy extent.
  • Surprise Creepy: Given that it's middle-grade, and has a fairly generic plot summary, the events of the prologue can come as an incredible shock.
    • Happens again in chapter three. Denizen is on the way to meet his aunt, McCarron seems friendly, things are a bit weird but nothing too horrible... and then a massive Eldritch Abomination suddenly pulls itself out of the rubble of a collapsed tunnel.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Subverted. Vivian being shot in the back out of nowhere. She gets better.
  • Survival Horror: Simon is stuck in this.
  • Survivor Guilt: It turns out this was the reason the first Croit even started their cult—his guilt over surviving while his love, the Redemptress, did not. This helps Denizen come to terms with his own Survivor Guilt.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Utilized in an absolutely heartbreaking way. Denizen figures out what happened to the Redemptress and the First Croit, and sympathizes enough to try to talk Her down. He cries when Uriel and the others kill Her.
    • In the third book, Denizen can't bring himself to kill the Opening Boy because he sees himself in it.
  • Taken for Granite: Well, iron. If the Cost progresses enough, it turns a Knight completely to iron—not just their skin.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Downplayed and Double Subverted. Denizen tries to talk Grey out of killing him. It doesn't seem to be working, and Grey shoots anyway... but spares Denizen anyway and lets him escape.
    • Denizen also tries this on the Redemptress.
  • Talking Your Way Out: Denizen does a variation of this when he's kidnapped by the Croits and offers to teach them the Cants. Although it's less talking his way out of capture, and more talking his way out of being murdered and having his blood used as crusade-paint.
  • Tattoo as Character Type: D'Aubigny has two tattoos: a colorful dominant one across her shoulders, and a black rose on her stomach (although the meaning of that one doesn't fit). Grey has a phoenix on his shoulder blade. Both characters do have supernatural powers, although neither has actually ever even mentioned their tattoos.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Vivian and Greaves.
  • Terms of Endangerment: The Clockwork Three call Vivian “dear girl” and Grey “little Knight.” The latter case is particularly creepy because it sounds almost dehumanizing, as if they were using it as part of their psychological torture.
  • That's an Order!: Vivian says this when she commands the other Knights to stand down while she goes after the Clockwork Three. Naturally, Grey disobeys anyway.
  • Theme Naming: A lot of the names in the book have to do with darkness.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Uriel and Ambrel are both named after angels, possibly.
  • Thin Dimensional Barrier: Although the barrier between the real world and the Tenebrae is never very stable, they almost overlap in some places, creating these spots. At Os Reges Point, the worlds are so close that they almost coexist, and so many Knights have lived at Seraphim Row and thinned the wall there that they have to light candlewards to lessen the danger of it falling into the Tenebrae.
  • This Is Reality: “But that was in books, and monsters were real.”
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Uriel repeatedly throws copies of the Flaming Sword he can summon at the Redemptress.
  • Training the Gift of Magic: The power is hungry and dangerous, and the Cants—the only moderately safe way to even use the magic—are potentially deadly without training, so this becomes necessary to everyone with a connection to the Tenebrae, whether they decide to join the Order or not.
  • Trapped with Monster Plot: Simon's plotline.
  • Trust Password: Invoked by Denizen to prove to Simon that he is real. When he starts really overthinking it, it turns into more of a case of Something Only They Would Say.
  • Twitchy Eye: Grey develops this.
    • Also occurs when someone is struggling to control their powers.
  • Two First Names: Fuller Jack.
  • Unreliable Expositor: The Knights don't know a whole lot about the Tenebrous, which results in this. They warn Denizen that this is the case, though. Grey also has a habit of glossing over information, or giving incomplete/inaccurate explanations, such as when he told Denizen that the reason they lit candles in Seraphim Row was because they'd miss colors (in reality, it's because they act as anchors that prevent the house from falling into the Tenebrae).
  • The Usurper: In the third book, the Endless King is overthrown and three Usurpers— Dragon, the Emissary, and the Opening Boy—declare challenges to try to take his place on the throne by proving their strength to the other Tenebrous. Ultimately, Mercy ascends by returning the Cants.
  • Villainous Breakdown: By the end, the Clockwork Three are both metaphorically and literally falling apart.
  • Wacky Americans Have Wacky Names: Downplayed, but the PenumbraCorp agent is named Strap.
  • Wainscot Society: The Order of the Borrowed Dark.
  • Walk-In Chime-In: “That sounds like an excellent idea, because I'm about ready to retire.”
  • Wall of Weapons: The Room of Swords.
  • War Is Hell: This is iterated and reiterated to Denizen frequently.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Denizen asks Mercy this after learning how she's been using him since the events of book one. She did genuinely like him, but she did have an ulterior motive for basically every single one of their interactions.
  • Weapon of X-Slaying: The hammers of Mallei are the only weapons that can kill certain ancient Tenebrous.
  • Welcomed to the Masquerade: Denizen after his Dawning.
  • Western Zodiac
    • Although he probably thought he was a Taurus for most of his life, Denizen is a Libra, since he was born on October 3rd. It seems like an odd sign for him at first, since he's easily angered and has all the charisma of a rock, but it does fit with his role as The Heart, his longing for familiarity and peace, and the importance he places on deep relationships, among other traits.
    • Simon (born October 26) is a rare heroic Scorpio—fitting, given his love of mystery novels and the significance of his detective skills.
  • Wham Episode: Chapter 25. Grey is the Clockwork Three's thrall, Vivian Hardwick appears to die, and it's finally revealed what the Three want and why they're after Denizen.
  • Wham Line
    • Book One: “Denizen... I'm not your aunt. I'm your mother.
    • Book Two: “The Order live?”
  • Wild Magic: The power of the Tenebrae just wants to be used... and really, just once wouldn't hurt, would it? Just let your anger out, it would be so easy to change the world, to burn the world, and come on, a hand isn't that big of a sacrifice for this kind of power! … Yeah, that's why there's a Cost.
  • With Due Respect: The members of Vivian's cadre do not use this when they are disagreeing with her, but Grey puts the phrase in as a slightly-sarcastic afterthought when he (probably) accidentally insults her.
    Vivian: Eager? You didn't think that odd?
    Grey: I just thought you'd paid him a visit. With respect, Malleus.
  • You Know What They Say: No plan of action survives first contact.

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